Yiddish Theatre

BookYiddish Theatre

Yiddish Theatre

New Approaches

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


January 1st, 2007



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This volume of essays is the first collection of scholarly studies on the Yiddish theatre to appear in English. Drawing on a variety of academic disciplines, it considers the dramatic and musical repertoire of Yiddish theatre and their historical development, popular and critical reception of productions, and the practice and consequences of state censorship. The time-span covered is broad—from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century—as is the geographical range: Cracow, London, Moscow, New York, St Petersburg, Vienna, and Warsaw. Yiddish Theatre not only presents a comprehensive study of the field but also helps illustrate the significance of the Yiddish theatre as a vital form of expression in the Jewish world. Yiddish drama and theatre has had an enormous capacity to entertain audiences on six continents, while at the same time highlighting social, political, religious, and economic concerns of vital interest to the Jewish people.

Yiddish Theatre is a valuable resource for scholars, university students, and general readers interested both in Yiddish theatre specifically and related fields such as Jewish literature and culture, east European history and culture, and European and American theatre. The book contains the most comprehensive bibliography to date of sources relating to the Yiddish theatre.

CONTRIBUTORS: Ahuva Belkin, Joel Berkowitz Paola Bertolone, Miroslawa M. Bulat, Brigitte Dalinger, Barbara Henry, John Klier, David Mazower, Leonard Prager, Nahma Sandrow, Nina Warnke, Seth L. Wolitz.

‘A comprehensive study of the field . . . a wonderful read . . . A valuable resource for any person interested in the history of the Yiddish theatre, or anyone interested in Jewish literature and culture, or anyone interested in the history of theatre in general in eastern Europe and America.’  Sara Marcus, AJL Newsletter

'There is nothing comparable in English . . . it is a pioneering volume that necessarily lays a foundation and implies an agenda for Yiddish theatre scholarship in the English-speaking world. Because it is the first and as yet only such publication in English, it will repay careful scrutiny in its parts and as a whole.'  Michael C. Steinlauf, All about Jewish Theatre

‘One the book’s best attributes is the ability of its contributors to place their subjects within larger European contexts . . . the calibre of the contributions is high, demonstrating the degree to which Yiddish theatre is attracting the attention of serious scholars . . . [the book] succeeds not only in its goal of presenting some of the most important new scholarship on Yiddish theatre, but more importantly in helping to bring the study of this integral component of Jewish culture into wider academic circles and into a more complex scholarly discourse.’  Jeffrey Veidlinger, Shofar

‘Aside of the high level of papers there are many extra advantages of the book: selection of interesting plates and tables, many interesting texts (written in transcription for the sake of those not knowing Hebrew . . .), and above all detailed bibliography (34 pages) and thorough index.’  Przemyslaw Piekarski, Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia

‘A stimulating and encouraging book that I am happy to recommend to the specialist and the curious reader alike . . . It is not only a politically opportune moment to investigate the history of Yiddish theatre . . . but also a time to create a comprehensive study of Jewish theatre, comparable to what has been done in publications on the history and traditions of Jewish film. It is a pleasure to acknowledge that Yiddish Theatre: New Approaches constitutes a very effective step in this direction.’  Yana Meerzon, Modern Language Review

'A pioneering volume that necessarily lays a foundation and implies an agenda, for Yiddish theatre scholarship in the English-speaking world. Because it is the first and as yet the only such publication in English, it will repay careful scrutiny, both in its parts and as a whole.'  Michael Steinlauf, Modern Jewish Studies

‘The volume contains eleven excellent articles and has been produced by a publisher of repute: the Littman Library . . . All in all, Yiddish Theatre: New Approaches is a landmark in the field of Yiddish cultural history. It is a thought-provoking book, which will hopefully inspire new collective volumes and monographs.’  
Gennady Estraikh, East European Jewish Affairs

‘Carefully and lovingly edited . . . represents a genuinely heroic effort at elevating a genre . . . The scholarship is impeccable, and the contributors all serious scholars.’  S. Gittleman, Choice


Author Information

Joel Berkowitz is Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at the State University of New York at Albany. He previously taught Yiddish literature at the University of Oxford and English language and literature at the City University of New York. He is the author of Shakespeare on the American Yiddish Stage, as well as a number of scholarly articles on Yiddish theatre and drama.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Half Title2
Title Page4
Note on Transliteration and Orthography12
List of Plates13
List of Tables14
Introduction: Writing the History of the Yiddish Theatre16
I. Purimshpil42
1. The ‘Low’ Culture of the Purimshpil44
II. Repertoire60
2. Romanticism and the Yiddish Theatre62
3. Jewish Plays on the Russian Stage: St Petersburg, 1905–191776
4. The Text of Goldfaden’s Di kishefmakherin and the Operetta Tradition92
5. Shulamis and Bar kokhba: Renewed Jewish Role Models in Goldfaden and Halkin102
III. Regional Centres120
6. Yiddish Theatre in Vienna, 1880–1938122
7. Stories in Song: The Melo-deklamatsyes of Joseph Markovitsh150
8. From Goldfaden to Goldfaden in Cracow’s Jewish Theatres170
IV. Censorship188
9. ‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’: Russian Administrators and the Ban on Yiddish Theatre in Imperial Russia190
10. The Censorship of Sholem Asch’s Got fun nekome, London, 1946206
V. Criticism230
11. The Child Who Wouldn’t Grow Up: Yiddish Theatre and its Critics232
Notes on Contributors248